In Plato’s Republic, an ambitious man claims that justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger, or that might makes right. Unless we understand human beings and politics, we will be condemned to live under rulers who serve their own interests, but not ours. This basic fact of political life has been a concern to political philosophers since the time of the first democracies in ancient Greece. Even today terrorists and some governments claim to be just while using violence to advance their own interests and attack the basic order of societies. Thus we are left to answer fundamental political questions, of what is the best life, the best society, the best government and, of course, who should rule – and how far can they go in establishing a secure society.
To answer such questions, we need to understand human nature and whether it must be transformed to achieve the best society. We must understand the relationship between political violence, the order of society and justice. And we must also understand the relationship between politics and religion (or belief). Through our consideration of a number classic works of political philosophy, we’ll confront these central concerns of political life.